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Balancing Work, Family, and an Online MBA: Strategies for Success

06 Feb
Smiling man working on laptop at a desk. His wife and daughter are watching tv on sofa in background

Getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can have a powerful impact on your life. In 2022, the average starting salary for MBA graduates was just under six figures, with even more earning potential in certain industries.1

However, the road to getting a business degree is challenging. It can be even harder for graduate students with added responsibilities, such as work commitments or a family. With only so many hours in a day, juggling your job, personal responsibilities, online MBA, and family life might feel impossible.

The flexibility of online MBA programs makes it easier to plan around your daily responsibilities. But even then, balancing MBA studies and work isn’t easy. It takes careful planning, meticulous time management for online MBA studies, and a host of other strategies to stay present in your school, work, and personal life.

This post provides five tools for students determined to maintain a healthy work-life balance while pursuing an online MBA.

1. Time Management and Organization

From work performance to course load, you have a lot on your plate when pursuing an online MBA degree. Mastering your schedule through time-management skills is an essential part of success.

Create a pre-planned weekly schedule. Block out your professional work hours, as well as any other personal requirements on your to-do list. Then, block out the time you need to study. Think about times when you’re most productive. For example, some people do their best work first thing in the morning, before work. Others might be better off waiting for later in the evening once children have gone to bed.

Create a Study Space

No matter how big or small, it’s important to carve out a dedicated study space. Especially if you’re living with others, establishing a designated study place is a way to separate your MBA work from your home life. Even in the most hectic of moments, you can always step away to your study place if you need to focus. This space can be a private room in your home or even the corner of your living room. If distractions make it difficult to focus at home, look for a quiet public location, such as a study nook at your local library.

Utilize Productivity Tools

Self-discipline can go a long way, but it can only take you so far. Take advantage of productivity tools and techniques to help you stick to your pre-planned schedule and meet your most important deadlines.

Applications such as Freedom, RescueTime, and Cold Turkey block distractions from your phone or web browser, making it easier to stay focused during your study sessions. Other productivity tools, such as EverNote and Notion, help you organize your study notes.

Some productivity techniques don’t require an app at all, as long as you have a timer. The Pomodoro method is a time-management method based on 25-minute stretches of focused work with five-minute breaks in between.2 After four consecutive intervals of study, you can take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

2. Effective Communication and Support Systems

The power of a support network in an online MBA program can’t be understated. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people around you, including family and friends, your program faculty, mentors, managers, and bosses. Constant communication with the people in your life about your academic commitments will lead to greater understanding and support when you hit your most challenging obstacles.

This might mean enlisting the help of your family members to take care of tasks at home while you complete assignments or reaching out to your employer and colleagues to let them know about an upcoming deadline or important exam. Seek support when you need it, whether it's physical assistance or just some emotional encouragement.

Connect with fellow online MBA students who are in a similar situation. Share your experiences, brainstorm challenges, and exchange tips to get through this together. Words of encouragement can go a long way.

3. Self-Care and Wellness

Managing family and MBA studies can be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting, so it’s all the more important to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, exercise for at least a few hours each week, and eat nutritious meals.

You don’t necessarily need to block off hours at a time. Fit your self-care in between your other responsibilities. Take breaks during your study sessions to stand up, stretch, and get a drink of water. Studies show that meditating for as little as five minutes a day can noticeably reduce stress.3

4. Flexibility and Adaptability

No matter how hard you try to plan your schedule, nothing is set in stone. Life can bring unexpected challenges, so it’s important to be adaptable and make changes to your routine as needed. In fact, being adaptable to change can alleviate some of the stress of your demanding schedule. Flexibility is what empowers you to customize your study schedule, seamlessly integrating some work-life balance during MBA studies.

To be an adaptable MBA student, you may need to make short-term sacrifices. Identify your biggest priorities and address those first, even if it means cutting or postponing less important responsibilities.

A flexible online MBA program may allow you to complete coursework on your own time. Take advantage of this to accelerate your learning when you have more study time to spare. When work or family responsibilities pick up again, you’ll then have the room to slow down academically.

5. Goal-setting and Motivation

The secret to success when getting an online MBA is goal-setting. Set short-term academic goals for the day, week, or month, such as completing assignments, participating in online discussion boards, or writing papers. But also remember to include longer-term goals for the semester to drive your personal growth. Think about what you want to achieve, whether it’s improving your grade in a particular subject or expanding your connections through networking.

Goal-setting will give you something to strive for. It also helps you measure your progress to keep you motivated. As you reach each intermediate milestone, you get closer and closer to completing your degree and moving on to the successful career it can help make possible.

Make sure most of your goals are grounded, realistic, and achievable. But don’t be afraid to set a few goals that may be harder to reach. While attainable goals allow you to achieve short-term success, aspirational goals can elevate you to a higher level of achievement. For example, an aspirational goal could include being in the top percentage of your class, if not the top of your class. It may not feel achievable now, but goals like these can inspire you to keep pushing for greater success.

Balancing Work, Life, and an Online MBA: How to Do It All

Getting your MBA while also juggling a career and a family isn’t easy, but it is possible. With the right success strategies for online MBA programs, you can pursue next-level education opportunities without sacrificing your personal life or career trajectory.

To take the first step toward your long-term career goals, explore the online MBA program from the Leavey School of Business. Designed for working professionals looking to level up their careers, our flexible online program delivers the foundational business knowledge and principled leadership skills to propel your career, in Silicon Valley and beyond.

To learn more, schedule a call with one of our admissions outreach advisors today.